Turning the Tables: Restaurants from the Inside Out

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Overview

Go behind the swinging doors of the restaurant world with eGullet's irreverent Fat Guy.

Have you ever wondered how that flawless piece of fish or that rare farmstead cheese reached your plate? Or how to read between the lines of a restaurant review? Or why some restaurants succeed while others fail?

Steven A. Shaw has the answers — and he offers them up with style and humor. More than a how-to guide, Turning ...

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Overview

Go behind the swinging doors of the restaurant world with eGullet's irreverent Fat Guy.

Have you ever wondered how that flawless piece of fish or that rare farmstead cheese reached your plate? Or how to read between the lines of a restaurant review? Or why some restaurants succeed while others fail?

Steven A. Shaw has the answers — and he offers them up with style and humor. More than a how-to guide, Turning the Tables is an exploration and a celebration of the incredibly intricate workings of professional kitchens and dining rooms.

No snooty critic, Shaw has crisscrossed North America in search of insider knowledge at every level, from temples of haute cuisine to barbecue joints and hot dog stands. He has gone undercover in kitchens and dining rooms, trailed top restaurateurs and suppliers, and has the burns, girth, and aching feet to prove it.

In Turning the Tables, Shaw weaves an intriguing tapestry of journalism and opinion to deliver an unprecedented look at every aspect of the world of restaurants. His infectious enthusiasm and penetrating observations make Turning the Tables a joy to read. It is a paean to the cooks, servers, farmers, and restaurateurs who sustain us, and an unrivaled examination of a world that remains hidden to most.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Restaurant reviewer Steven Shaw has never harbored gourmet pretensions. Well known in internet food circles as the founder of fatguy.com and eGullet.org, this proud New Yorker doesn't conceal his fond memories for Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips or his unabashed fascination with butcher shops and fishmongers. "The Fat Guy" critiques elite Manhattan eateries with the natural skepticism of an Average Joe eying menu prices; he sneaks into kitchens and shares trade secrets about suppliers. Good eats; great read.
Fortune
“Shaw dissects everything from reservation systems...to restaurant reviews and the intricate path your food takes to the table.”
Newsweek
“Steven Shaw tells you how to get exceptional service every time.”
Boston Globe
“[The] Fat Guy makes his case....Turning the Tables is a well-rounded work by a well-rounded guy.”
The New Yorker
“...sound, neighborly advice on getting reservations...briskly tough.”
Publishers Weekly
Shaw, known in Internet food circles as the Fat Guy, and founder of the culinary Web site eGullet.org, offers a sort of Kitchen Confidential from the perspective of an average Joe (albeit a pretty swift one). He goes inside the kitchens of venerable New York establishments like Gramercy Tavern and Lespinasse, visits a Connecticut hot dog shack and a North Carolina BBQ joint. But while Anthony Bourdain is interested in telling readers why they should avoid eggs Benedict at all costs, Shaw takes more of a glass-half-full approach. He hangs out with a "reservationist" at the posh New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, so he can learn how to snag a reservation at the last minute ("polite but confident persistence" is key). He advises readers to take the information in guides like Zagat's and restaurant reviews with a grain of salt: remember, they're just opinions. He also urges readers to pay attention to where food comes from and to try new things. A mixed bag of advice, insider information and soapboxing (on everything from organic food and "authentic cuisine" to restaurant critics), this opinionated diner's tour is sure to appeal to chowhounds in general and New Yorkers in particular. Agent, Michael Psaltis. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his penetrating first book, restaurant critic and food columnist Shaw decodes the secrets of the food world. Driven by his passion for food, he goes behind the scenes-often undercover-to do prep work in restaurant kitchens, tour farms and markets with food buyers and produce managers, and even make an early-morning stop at the Fulton Fish Market in New York City to trace the ingredients of a meal to a diner's plate. Along the way, he skewers the government's controversial regulation of raw-milk cheeses, takes the Zagat surveys to task, and dispels the mysteries of Michelin's star-rating system. After this vicarious romp, readers will gain new confidence in their abilities to choose restaurants, make-and get-coveted reservations, decipher menus, and order great meals. Though many of the scenarios take place in New York restaurants, Shaw's solid advice can be easily applied to restaurants everywhere. A delicious read for restaurant goers (and these days, isn't that most of us?); recommended for public libraries and academic libraries with culinary collections.-Deborah M. Ebster, Univ. of Central Florida Libs., Orlando Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Restaurant critic Shaw, founder and publisher of Fat-Guy.com and eGullet.com, reveals secrets about commercial restaurants, including how to get a good table. Shaw began his career as a lawyer, but he was always a food lover at heart, and he eventually found his place in his rightful field of employ. Now, as a restaurant columnist (Elle, Saveur, etc.), he has even more entree into his favorite places, and here he shares his trade secrets. Hanging out with the reservationist (yes, he assures the reader, it is a word), assisting in the kitchen of Manhattan's renowned Gramercy Tavern and counting the number of eggs used on a Sunday at the Tavern on the Green, Shaw darts into those exalted places that most foodies only conjecture about, and he soaks up the atmosphere for hours and days at a time. Possibly his best practical advice is on how to get a table at a hot restaurant-being persistent and becoming a regular are two of the top methods-and his revelations about the reservation software and how closely it tracks the diner will ensure that readers will never be no-shows again. Shaw's philosophy, in a nutshell, is that regulars get the best service; therefore, people who enjoy dining out should find restaurants they love and go to them repeatedly. The author also visits the suppliers-the fishmongers, cheese makers and humane veal farmers-who cater to the best kitchens. The grueling nature of restaurant work may best be illustrated by the hours it involves: the fish market is hopping at 2 a.m., roughly the time most waiters are finally able to go out to dinner themselves, and so on. An unabashed restaurant fan, Shaw places himself in contrast with Ruth Reichl and Mimi Sheraton (who reviewedanonymously), saying that reviewers and restaurants should have a cozier relationship. Solid work, if a tad stuffy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060737801
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/16/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 4.87 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven A. Shaw, aka "The Fat Guy," is the founder of the phenomenally successful eGullet website, a James Beard Award-winning food critic, and a contributor to Saveur, Crain's New York Business, and many other publications. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2005

    Infomative and personal

    Turning The Tables is full of information about dining. The author tells us the inside story about the food we eat in a way that is interesting and pretty amazing. The book is easy reading and made me smile a lot.Look for the running bit about shoes!

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